Bremen student continues to draw inspiration from his late father
BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI Correspondent July 12, 2013 4:12PM
Jesus Benitez, who will be a senior in the Fall, is the Voice of Bremen High School as seen Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in Midlothian. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 16, 2013 6:01AM
Seventh grade proved to be a turning point for Jesus Benitez, a senior-to-be at Bremen High School in Midlothian.
Benitez describes himself as “nothing much” at that point in his life. His father was sick, and Jesus didn’t have many accomplishments to his name.
“I thought the doctors would find a way to make him better and everything would be fine. But then I realized something could go wrong with my dad, and I wanted to help him out,” said Benitez, 16. “I said, ‘Hey, if my dad can hold on, I can do something with my life and take care of him.’ I decided to actually try in school.”
His grades started to skyrocket and he was surprised that he could earn grades so high.
“By the time eighth grade came around, I had turned into the straight-A student my dad wanted,” he said.
Benitez’s parents, Pedro and Maria Benitez, immigrated to the United States and settled in Midlothian, which is where they lived when their son was born.
“I was the first of my family to be born here. My dad always wanted a better life for us and I was able to recognize that at a young age,” Jesus said. “So I said if something does go down, I wouldn’t let his dream go down in vain.”
Benitez continued to do well in high school, taking honors and advanced placement classes and ranking in the top five students in his class.
“That’s when it really hit me,” he said. “I went from nothing to one of the best and brightest freshmen.”
His success got him noticed and he was invited by his English teacher, Eva Evbuoma, to become the “Voice of the Braves,” making the in-school announcements at Bremen as well as announcing sports and representing the school at various special occasions.
It is Evbuoma who Benitez says has mentored him along the way.
“To this day, she doesn’t realize the impact she has had on me. She released something inside of me. It was somewhat magical,” Benitez said. “At that moment, I realized I was no longer a nobody but a somebody.”
Since then, Benitez has earned the respect of coaches and sponsors as he continues to do the play-by-play at athletic events and school assemblies. He is an inspiration to his peers as well.
He continues to progress on the AP track, and the school uses his testimony to encourage other students to take on the challenges of an AP course to introduce them to more rigorous curriculum and prepare for a future that involves college.
Benitez’s father died last year but lived along enough to see the turnaround in his son and be proud of his many accomplishments.
Benitez continues to succeed despite the loss of his father. He’s a member of mathletes and earned an All-Conference title. He’s an award winner on the chess team and also is a member of National Honor Society, science club and plays various sports.
Benitez is undecided about his future after high school. He once thought about being a veterinarian, a video game programmer, an engineer or going into psychology.
“My parents did what they loved to do. My mom is a seamstress and she loves it. My dad was a cook, and he loved it,” Benitez said. “They never ‘worked’ a day in their life. I want to take what I’m good at and give it to the world, so now I’m thinking about going into radio and sports broadcasting. I love to do this.”
As he plans his future, not a day goes by when Benitez doesn’t think of his father.
“When all that you live for is taken away from you in one minute, it is a devastating feeling,” he said. “But after my dad died, the sun still rose and it was a little warmer and brighter than it was before. It was like he was telling me there would always be another day. I took it as a sign that he was passing the torch to me and I would take care of the family now.”